A throng of drivers clogged the streets of Michigan’s capital of Lansing on Wednesday to protest coronavirus restrictions instituted by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Right-wing protestors were brandishing MAGA paraphernalia, Confederate flags and handwritten signs to express their anger at the state’s Democratic governor. By late Thursday night Michigan had the fourth-highest amount of diagnoses in the nation with more than 29,000 confirmed cases.
To combat the virus, Whitmer has imposed strict guidelines, including banning sales of non-essential items, barring residents from visiting their friends, and forbidding outdoor recreation. Critics of the measure say Whitmer is displaying authoritarianism and violating their rights. Four Michigan county sheriffs accused her of “overstepping her executive authority” in an open letter posted on social media. Opponents are also concerned about the economic ramifications of business closures on the economy.
“A lot of Republicans and conservatives feel there might be an overreaction to all of this,” 86-year-old hard-right pundit Richard Viguerie explained to The Washington Post. “We’re all anxious to get back. Conservatives feel the government has overreacted, and it’s got to end.”
The Lansing protest, titled Operation Gridlock, lived up to its name. It was organized by The Michigan Conservative Coalition and Michigan Freedom Fund, an organization founded by Greg McNeilly. McNeilly is an adviser to billionaire Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her family, which includes her brother Erik Prince, founder of the mercenary company Blackwater.
Some demonstrators were heard chanting “Lock her up!” and “We will not comply!” At one point, an ambulance had trouble navigating due to the heavy traffic in the city. Many of the revelers were not wearing facial coverings or observing the 6-foot social distancing rule.
Whitmer said she doesn’t have anything personal against the revelers, but she is prioritizing the well-being of her constituents.
“This is clearly a political demonstration out here, but you know what? I don’t wish them ill will. I’m trying to protect all the people of this state, no matter if they voted for me or not,” Whitmer said to CNN On Thursday. “And I would love it if the White House would weigh in and help.”
President Donald Trump has an ongoing feud with the governor, whom he has referred to as “the woman in Michigan.”
Ironically, the protest might have been counterproductive to the demonstration’s cause.
“A small segment of the state is protesting and that’s their right,” Whitmer told CNN. “The sad part is, though, that the more that they’re out and about, the more likely they are to spread COVID-19 and the more likely we’re going to have to take this posture for a longer period of time.”
Whitmer said she will not ease up on the restrictions until she sees “a sustained decrease in the number of positive cases and robust testing.”